Success in second US couple’s deportation fight

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The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency has dropped a deportation order against a second married couple in California.

Last week, reported on the case of Bradford Wells and Anthony Makk, who have been told Mr Makk has been denied leave to remain in the country.

Mr Makk has been resident in the US for 19 years, and married Mr Wells seven years ago.

Now, however, a second San Franciscan couple has taken a deportation order to appeal, and succeeded.

Doug Gentry’s partner, Alex Benshimol, was told he had to return to his native Venezuela, despite having married Mr Gentry last year.

In July, the appeal judge gave the Immigration and Customs Enforcement, ICE, two months to decide whether to drop deportation proceedings after Mr Benshimol’s lawyer produced a memo issued by the agency’s director.

The memo tells the agency to use discretion when dealing with deportation proceedings against family members of American citizens.

ICE has now decided to drop the case.

Mr Benshimol had arrived in the US in 1999. He remained after his tourist visa expired, and became an illegal visitor when he met Mr Gentry, even after their marriage.

Straight couples who marry in similar circumstances can apply for a marriage visa, gaining the right to stay in the US.

The Defense of Marriage Act, which President Obama described as “abhorrent”, forbids gay couples from having their marriages recognised at that level.

Steve Ralls, spokesman for Immigration Equality, told SFWeekly: “Essentially, the Department of Homeland Security is saying that you must be faced with the worst case scenario to qualify for relief.

“The administration should be working to help families not face that scenario in the first place. We wish it didn’t have to come to removal.”

This decision is being heralded as evidence of a policy shift, which may give some hope for a possible appeal by Mr Makks and Mr Wells, who can file a motion to reconsider the decision the authority made in their case.

Last week, the Obama administration announced changes to immigration policy.

The changes mean that deportation cases will be prioritised according to security risk, such as those with criminal convictions.